They will represent themselves to governments, service providers, the United Nations and the public. As mentioned earlier, people with disabilities redefined themselves as citizens with rights, not as patients and clients of professionals, nor as beggars asking for hand-outs. We are a 'civil rights' organization of the disabled formed to conscientize the disabled about their rights and to fight for the right to access to all community services".
As Jim Derksen urged disabled Canadians in "Let us reason together, let us deliberate on our problems and needs, let us consider our abilities, and when we have agreed on the problems and solutions let us articulate our opinions and ideas in a strong and united voice. Identifying grassroots needs Organizations of disabled people arise in response to a group of people's perception that there are barriers to participation for disabled people in society that need to be addressed.
These organizations are based on the needs and aspirations developed by the disabled grassroots community. The disabled people who start such organizations are usually educated and are better off financially than the majority of disabled persons in their countries.
Their educational advantage causes these disabled persons to identify and analyze the barriers that bar the participation of people with disabilities in society. Furthermore it is disabled people who must identify their own needs and how to meet them. Paulo Freire explains in Pedagogy of the Oppressed: " No pedagogy that is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors.
The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption. Disabled persons' organizations around the world have forged mechanisms to hear from the grassroots disabled constituency. There are three ways this can be accomplished. This is important, not only to build the infrastructures of their organizations, but to solicit and represent the views of all people with disabilities in a country.
In countries such as Argentina the disabled people's organization realizes that it must reach out into the rural areas beyond Buenos Aires to help disabled people organize. Through outreach the needs and aspirations of rural people with disabilities are learned. It sends development workers into rural areas to locate people with disabilities.
They meet with local chiefs and village leaders to discuss the need to locate and to integrate disabled people into everyday life. In the process of organizing local chapters disabled people previously hidden away in the community are discovered and so are their needs and aspirations: "Rural members usually meet in small groups or cells which form part of the branch. Members try to locate disabled people in their villages and introduce them as new members.
They inform their branch secretaries of children or adults in need of treatment and education. Sometimes a branch is able to refer these cases to suitable hospitals or schools themselves; if they are unable to do this they request help from the headquarters office of NCDPZ. Some disabled people have attended each forum along with government officials, business people and members of the community. The forums have dealt with barriers to disabled persons' participation in employment, transportation, rehabilitation and independent living.
Driedger, , pp. For example: The first forum held in Winnipeg in focused on employment.
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Disabled people affirmed that employment was a right of every citizen in society. And disabled people agreed that working in the community with all other citizens was the best option for them.
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Driedger, , p. Democratic representation also provides another kind of input which is more indirect.
Organizations of disabled people, by definition, are controlled at the board and decision-making levels by disabled persons. People are elected to the decision-making bodies of organizations by their membership. Thus, the disabled people elected to the disabled persons organizations' boards represent those people's concerns to governments, service providers and the public. Frank Bowe, an American disabled advocate explains the process of representation: "Before I can represent a group of people, I must first consult with them.
This process involves sharing with these people my knowledge or expectation that certain issues among the many which concern these people are likely to become subject to public debate in the near future.
Romel W. Mackelprang
I must solicit from these individuals informed opinions on these issues and receive from them instructions to represent these views. These instructions constitute my authority as a representative. Indeed, the views of the group are represented by individuals to other bodies.
DPI is the international manifestation of such a representative system. Representations to government service providers, and U.
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Their representatives make presentations to decision-makers. In the past, in many countries, before the advent of multi-disability groups, many uni-disability groups would present their varying points of view without consulting other groups of people with disabilities. Government found it difficult to know which group to give priority to in the consultation process. As O'Rourke of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities ACCD stated: "For a long time was a big problem with disabled groups in America because when the legislation was brought before the Congress, perhaps forty different groups would go to Congress.
Each had a different position.. It became very difficult for the people within the government themselves to make decisions. Forrester, of the Combined Disabilities Association in Jamaica reiterates the important role of organizations in the consultation process: "It is more convenient and advantageous to make representatives to government concerning change or to lobby political leaders as associations, since politicians are more liable too act where they perceive that proposals are being made by associations rather than individuals". Forrester, , p. Too often priorities are set in social services that have little to do with the actual needs of disabled people.
It, thus, is good economic and policy planning to include disabled persons in the planning process because they are the ones that best know the needs of disabled people: "Most frequently in the past, programs, even in America, were designed by people who themselves were not very close to the problem. Disabled people themselves often know how to deal with situations when people who are not disabled need to think about how this problem should be handled.
This thought itself is still only theory because they are not disabled themselves, and lacking experience they have difficulty coming up with simple solutions. Evaluating and monitoring services Since disabled people themselves best know their own needs, organizations of disabled people play a role in evaluating and monitoring services.
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This process would perhaps take place more often in developed countries, where there were more services, than in developing countries. It would also happen more often in countries where there was an expectation from their citizens that their social needs should be served by government as a right. This attitude appears in countries such as Canada and Sweden where their social welfare states provide subsidized medical care and technical aids. The monitoring of services takes place in Sweden through HCK, its multi-disability organization. In Canada, the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped COPOH , as its first lobbying effort, worked to obtain accessible public transit services for disabled people in It is therefore an established city policy: a to make public means of transportation available; and, b to charge only a minimal fare to the user.
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Self-development Organizations of disabled people play a role in the development of disabled people's skills in the negotiation process, organization, management, and proposal and letter-writing. They also provide a forum for mutual support, while the above skills are being developed. Organizations give disabled people the opportunity, through being volunteer committee members or salaried employees, to learn skills which would benefit them in the open employment market.
Indeed, much of the skills training has taken place in local and national organizations where disabled people learned new skills because they had to do those things at the time to further the aims of their organization. There was no one else to take on these jobs, especially when groups started out with few monetary resources.
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The skills development of disabled people in the developing world is one of DPI's main arms. These week-long seminars deal with budgetting, management, fund-raising, writing letters, project proposals and reports, and establishing local self-help businesses. Similar seminars are taking place in some developed countries on the initiative of local and national organizations of disabled people. Mutual support and solidarity Organizations of disabled people, at all levels, are a vehicle for mutual support and solidarity.
Disabled people who belong to these groups find that they have a common purpose, that of promoting their right to live as citizens in society. This common purpose engenders feelings of mutual support and solidarity in a common cause. Indeed, the DPI Development Program Evaluation discovered that disabled people, who were given the opportunity to meet and discuss issues of concern with each other experienced this: Seminar participants: learned from the presence of persons with different disabilities that all had problems which were largely common, and that solidarity of effort was a natural outcome; developed a deeper appreciation of the strength that can come from groups of disabled persons joining together with the purpose of seeking to have their rights as people met.
Neufeldt, et. Knowing that you are not on your own is a very empowering bit of knowledge. It gives you a strange sense of security and the will to create change. It was a wonderful experience for me. I felt I was part of the majority and normal again, not just a "poor thing" in a wheelchair. This group often evolves into a combination of social-recreation programs and periodic social-action thrusts to meet various personal needs Vehicle for self-help projects Disabled people's organizations play the role of initiators of self-help projects aimed at integrating disabled people into the mainstream of society.
The projects have been initiated in two main areas: independent living and employment. In the U. Organizations controlled by disabled people, called independent living centres, have arisen to ensure that disabled people live as independently as possible. The centres were needed to fill gaps in services that disabled people identified.
They needed to live independently in the community: "They [independent living centres] are needed because they are a practical and imaginative way of correcting the historical omission of disabled people in the past, and to ensure that future service developments correspond to disabled peoples' legitimate aspirations". Davis, , p. The first centre was initiated in Berkeley, California in the early 's: After graduating some disabled students realized that once they left the university they would no longer have access to the services they depended upon in order to live in the community.
They required such services as attendant care and accessible transportation. To solve this problem, they organized cooperatively to guarantee the provision of the services they required. Driedger and D'Aubin, , p. These centers, depending on the local situations, provide accessible housing with attendant care, advocacy, peer counselling and information on existing services.
Many disabled people's organizations, mostly in the developing countries, have also initiated self-help employment projects. These businesses have proven immensely successful in terms of job skills training for disabled people, demonstrating that disabled people can work as efficiently as nondisabled people, providing a living for disabled people, and in making a profit, which is often used to fund the self-help organization. Thus, it is not a sheltered workshop. The Board of Directors consists of disabled people and nondisabled business people.
The factory produces wooden toys and gift items, which it markets in the U. It has proven to be a successful business venture which is reflected in the quality of the products and its economic viability. Profits go towards financing the projects of the Combined Disabilities Association. Again, disabled people are employed in this venture.